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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Middle Class

Who Ownes the Future?

Jaron Lanier




Beginning this book, and before I sleep I thought I'd share a simple idea. The question is: when is there a middle class?

The answer Lanier gives is surprisingly logical -- I'm going to pair it down a bit here. A middle class implies a normal distribution (a bell curve) of earning. Bell curves exist when there are a lot of degrees of freedom. In incomes, degrees of freedom would be ways to make or lose -- I'll say -- significant amounts of money.

In the tech economy, things are moving to what Lanier describes as a star system -- a few stars get rich, most don't. In statistics, it would be skew. As a simple example, imagine the earnings in a game show where winner takes all. All but one person earns below average -- no middle class to speak of. Not to leave you hanging too much, the reason for this in our information economy is those who are producing much of the data that goes into the massive big data networks (such as me putting this post on Facebook), are not getting paid for what they do, while the few stars -- Zuckerberg and co. -- are earning.